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The first 'carbon-positive' hotel in the US

Words by Smiley Team

Colorado is known for its aspen tree, which covers 5 million acres of the state’s forested land.

The tree's leaves and color are often displayed as a symbol of the state and are known for their great regeneration properties. Sprouts are produced by its roots in response to soil temperature change – and that response means that a singular aspen tree is usually part of a much larger underground organism. 

One thing that sets aspen trees apart from others is the way it carries out photosynthesis. Usually, the process is carried out in leaves and sometimes longer stems, but the aspen carries out photosynthesis in its bark – something that the creators of the first carbon-positive hotel in the US took to heart. 

The Populus Hotel, designed by the Chicago-based Studio Gang, named after the scientific title for the aspen, Populus tremuloides, takes inspiration from the tree in its building process, cutting emissions at any possible juncture. 

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The hotel features no parking garage, instead urging its guests to use public transportation coming and going from the site. The skeleton of the building is made of low-carbon concrete inspired by aspen bark, which along with its deep-set windows, promotes lower energy consumption for cooling and heating. 

The windows are especially interesting, taking direct inspiration from the bark of the aspen trees, with an offset texture, and “rhythm” to the design.

The roof is covered with solar panels, and for every ton of CO2 produced from energy use, the hotel will be buying “carbon offsets,” or trees that are planted by a third party to offset the carbon footprint of a building. 

“Internally, we often say if we can show people how to make money doing the right thing to change the world, it can be replicated,” Jon Buerge, chief development officer at Urban Villages, the sustainability-focused developer behind the project, told Fast Company.

The building will have 265 rooms and should be opening in early 2023. 

Inspired to act?

TAKE ACTION: Check your own Carbon Footprint, and look for ways you can lower your own environmental impact. 

DONATE: You can donate to Carbon Fund, a nonprofit that aims to support those to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Photo credit: Urban Villages

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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